Fall (and Thanksgiving) in Memphis

On our cross-country trek in mid-October we traversed the seasons! The first morning on the road, we left Pendleton and found snow in the Blue Mountains. The next day we woke in Ogden, Utah, and headed to Wyoming and felt, not that winter is coming, rather that winter had arrived. It was freezing cold and windy and barren. Then, nearing Denver from the north, we found fall in all its glorious color. Reaching Memphis only 5 days after beginning (though it seemed like a much longer journey), we had returned to summer.

We have been in our new home for nearly 6 weeks. Some trees have lost their leaves completely, and some are still green. This one is in our front yard and is a vibrant red. IMG_4761Hubby is ready for all the leaves to be down – he blows leaves around our pool and pool house, and a gust of wind invariably blows them right back at him.

Thanksgiving has come and gone. Happily, one daughter and son are still here visiting from Columbus, Ohio, and Corvallis, Oregon. It is such joy to have them here. My brother and sister-in-law from Florida were here for Thanksgiving, as well and Mom and step-dad. We had 8 around our table – a perfect fit. We make Thanksgiving dinner an event – it is served in courses, and each course is accompanied by a conversation topic that all around the table speaks to. There was laughter and some tears – but happy ones. We held those we love who were not at our table dear in our hearts. The whole thing took about 4 hours, which is typical, and we did not get to the dessert course, also typical. Much to my joy, the college miracle has happened again with our youngest. It just takes a few months away, and suddenly mom and dad are held in higher esteem than in days gone by. Truly miraculous – and brings wonder to a mom’s heart.

I do love Thanksgiving and am filled with gratitude for the family that travelled to spend it with us in our new home. After having lived in one house in Oregon for nearly 30 years, this first Thanksgiving has proven it true that “home” is not the structure, it is the people we love gathered together. I’ve never doubted the truth of that in theory; now I have experienced it in realty.

Our AirBnB listings are all up and running. Joel and I are busy making beds, cleaning toilets, and doing laundry! We are meeting delightful people and are enjoying our new business. Here is a link to our profile – from there you can visit each of our 4 listings. Profile

Come see us in Memphis!

It’s Feeling Like Grand Central Station Around Here!

We’ve been in Memphis for 3 ½ weeks. We have been non-stop busy getting settled and getting our AirBnB listings up and running. We currently have all 4 listings up and running, but I want to unveil them one at a time. Here is our first:

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We refer to it as our Meda house. It is the little house that we purchased sight unseen in June. We did some remodeling – a new bathroom, added crown molding, a new floor in the kitchen, hall, bath. This is the house that I had a panic attack over way back in May. The first time I saw it, after we offered to buy it, I was not impressed. My 2 oldest daughters convinced me that it would be adorable when we were finished with it. As we were finishing it up about a week ago, for listing on AirBnB, I was struck by how adorable it had become. I texted my eldest daughter, “It is so stinking cute!” As I was literally finishing it up, taking the last pictures to put up on AirBnB, I received a message that it was booked for 3 days, with a check-in of 3:00 that day! This message came in at 2:30! I texted the guest, a Fed Ex Pilot (Curt), that it would be ready!

We were blessed that Curt was our first guest. The next morning he called me to let us know that there was no hot water in the house. Hubby and I went over and determined that the gas hot water heater pilot light was out from when the gas range had been installed 2 days before. It took Hubby about an hour to get the thing re-lit but eventually, success! Then the next day, due to our security company’s failure (don’t get me started on this one), Curt’s key code to the front door was cancelled and he was locked out of the house. It felt a bit like a comedy of errors.

Curt checked out after his 3 days, and gave us a great review. As it turns out he is here with us again tonight, the first guest in one of the bedrooms in our main house – a listing to be unveiled in a subsequent post.

Take a look at this listing, and give it a save (heart icon) for us. And if you are ever in Memphis, come see us!

https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/19886612?s=51

 

Living in an Historical District

IMG_4651We now live in a house in Memphis that was built in 1912. It has an “Historical District” plaque near the front door – we loved that when we looked at the house, not really understanding what implications it might have for us after we owned it.IMG_4664

Local Memphians refer to “Midtown charm” when describing houses like ours: doors don’t close, due either to layer upon layer of paint, or settling; floors slope, in our case almost always towards the center of the house where this foursquare style house’s stairway anchors the structure; and windows don’t open, due again to paint layers or to caulk sealing. Who does that?

I must have fresh air; it is an absolute. I accept that during the summer in Memphis, there may be weeks when we will not want to open windows due to relentless heat and humidity, but now in late October, the weather is glorious. No humidity, tons of blue sky, and cool temperatures. We just had a few nights of temperatures near freezing!

We’ve received a quote on replacing the windows in this old house. The contractor provided two alternatives: vinyl or a more expensive (as in double) fiberglass framed product, both double hung to replicate the style in the house now. The historical society, to which we belong, has an opinion: “Vinyl windows are completely inappropriate and SHALL NOT be used.” Our first thought: who are you to tell us what to do, and what happens if we ignore you? Turns out, the city of Memphis has adopted the historical society’s guidelines as zoning policy.

So what to do? We have pried open several windows in the master bedroom and bath, so I do have fresh air at night. For now that will have to suffice while we consider another remodeling project that is higher priority – an open kitchen/family room concept. Thank goodness our historical society is unconcerned with what we choose to do to the inside of the house.

We Share the Same Sphere

The evening before Hubby came home from work, for the last time, I chatted with my neighbor about how I was looking forward to retirement some unforeseen day out in the future, thinking we would likely stay put in our house. My only worry was how Hubby would occupy himself without a J-O-B. Little did I know, but the very next day, January 20, we would come face-to-face with that reality.

We were shaken with the abrupt change to our lives and we spent a lot of time palling around together. I continued my quilting business, and Hubby accompanied me to meetings with customers, chauffeured me around, and we accomplished errands together. In those first days, he spent hours readying the yard for spring (we fired our landscapers on day 1), and hours working out at the club where we kept our membership, but ratcheted it down to just a membership for one instead of for the whole family. Hubby also took on house cleaning responsibilities (we fired our house cleaners on day 1), and when the first time cleaning day rolled around he spent the entire day on about a third of the house. That part of the house was “deep” cleaned in a way it had NEVER seen before.

More recently, and months later, our 3rd daughter was home for a few months in the summer. Her arrival coincided with a particularly stressful time during the house saga, and she commented how she noticed and appreciated that her dad and I were partnering so closely through the challenges of this transition. This daughter noticed something that had occurred to me just a few days into our new life. Hubby and I had lived in two different worlds – he had his, and I had mine. Our two worlds did have an overlapping section that we shared, but most of our time was spent in our separate worlds. Now, we occupy the SAME sphere, nearly entirely. It might help that we have turned our lives upside down, but so far it is good, really good.

House Saga – Buying (It’s easier to buy than to sell, and that applies to EVERYTHING!)

Right about January 20, when Hubby’s job ended abruptly, we started looking on-line at real estate In Memphis. Originally, our sights were set on small houses that we could rent on AirBnB. Later we thought we would look for a slightly larger house that we could live in and also rent the extra rooms.

With the help of our Son-in-law, we narrowed down our search into specific “good” areas in Memphis. Also on about January 20, we connected with a realtor in Memphis named Stacy. I loved her immediately, and I love her still. I’ve asked her to be my first friend in Memphis, but I’m not sure she is into that. Perhaps I should stick to quilting friends.

At first, every time I found a “good” house, I would email my SIL – he would say things like, “Too close to the railroad tracks,” or “That is in the ghetto.” Once in a while he would say, “Awesome location!” I would email Stacy, and she would say, “That one is already under contract.” Eventually, SIL sent us a map of Memphis with the “good” areas highlighted. That made things slightly easier. Every morning, Hubby and I would peruse the listings in Memphis and imagine owning some of those houses.

Sometime in April, a little 2 bedroom, 1 bath house in an historical area close to downtown came on the market. It was darling – it had red kitchen cabinets and an adorable front porch. I emailed Stacy that we wanted to make an offer. She let us know that the buyer was accepting all offers by 5pm in 2 days time. That is how houses under $200,000 in good areas in Memphis are selling. This thing had just gone on the market! We asked Daughter and Son-in-law to go look at it for us. They did and we decided to go forward. Full Price offer – cash. We learned the next day that buyer took another offer. Oh well, we were excited because we were, “In the game!”

Soon after that, another 2 bedroom, 1 bath house in an even better area came on the market. Showings and offers would start in a week’s time. There was only one picture on-line. Daughter and Son-in-law took a look and we made another offer – again full price, cash. This time we got it! Yay! Or, OMG… What have we done?? Closing on this house was scheduled for June 15. I planned a trip to Memphis near the end of April.

We continued to peruse listings, and a few days before my trip to Memphis a house came on the market that was perfect for us – perfect for us to live in and to do AirBnB in as well. It was more expensive that the other houses we had looked at, but it was beautiful and it was PERFECT!

I travelled to Memphis. Stacy took me to see many houses – the one that was in the ghetto, several I had selected from current listings, the house we were actually under contract to buy, and the PERFECT house. This all happened on a Friday. That night I went to sleep fine, but woke at 5 am in a panic. I didn’t like the house we were under contract to buy, not at all. What in the world were we doing, anyway?

The household was up a bit later, and Daughter needed something at the store. I offered to go. I came out of the store, into the Memphis 9 a.m. heat in late April and nearly burst into tears. I could not breathe. This is not my place. I do not belong here. I went home to Daughter’s house and did burst into tears. My two oldest daughters were in the house that morning. They immediately took me under their wings and made me feel much better – first by validating my panic and second by convincing me how “cute” the house we were under contract to buy could be.

The PERFECT house was on Peabody Avenue. I will from now on call it Peabody. There was an open house at Peabody on Sunday. We visited it again. It is still perfect. I flew home on Tuesday. Hubby and I talked about it. He agreed that it was perfect (though he hadn’t seen it) and we decided to try a contingent offer. We needed to sell our house in order to buy it, and our house wasn’t even yet on the market and wouldn’t be for about 3 weeks. We made a full-price offer. The seller was also the agent and we went back and forth for about a week. We weren’t being entirely reasonable, though we didn’t understand that at the time. Finally on our last counter, Hubby said, “And throw in all the outside furniture!” That pissed them off. And that was the end of that. All this happened during the first week of May.

From early May until middle August, we watched Peabody on-line. I constantly checked to see that it was still on the market. I was pretty sure that the seller would give us a chance to “play” if they got another offer. While we felt that Peabody was perfect for us, it has its downsides. It has a formal living area and formal dining, but no real bonus room or family room. It is largely bedrooms and bathrooms – perfect for our plans. Peabody remains on the market (with occasional price drops) all through us getting our house on the market, going under contract, going back on the market when our first contract failed. During the time we were newly back on the market with our house after the first contract failed, Peabody’s seller reached out and said they would be very flexible on price if we could close in 30 days. We had to sell our house first.

Then, on the 3rd weekend of our second time on the market with our house, as we were vacating our house for an open house, we got a text from Stacy. Seller of Peabody had reached out to let us know they had an offer they were considering. We were morose. We had visited Memphis again at the end of July, and Hubby had seen several properties, as well as Peabody. It is clear and uncontested: Peabody is perfect. We asked if seller would consider an offer from us. Their response was, “Only if there are no contingencies.” What to do?

We decided to find out if we could get a mortgage. Over the course of a few hours we learn that we “might” be able to qualify for a mortgage and that we can borrow from Hubby’s IRA account, tax and penalty free (he is not yet 59 ½) if we return the money in 60 days. Who knew? We get a letter from our broker that we have the funds to make the purchase. We decide to proceed, to use the IRA funds if we need to, and to get a mortgage. We make an offer that is under the current asking price, and significantly less that we had offered in May – cash, 30 day closing. Seller says they will let us know the next day. We are feeling they had probably only used us to get the other offer to go higher. At least we had tried.

Next day around noon, we heard. We got it. Peabody is ours. We are ecstatic.

To be clear, we understand that none of this was very smart. Turns out, we cannot get a mortgage. We have no income. My quilting business is clearly ending in Oregon, so that doesn’t count. Hubby is not 59 ½ for 18 months, so they won’t consider monetizing his IRA. My IRA is accessible penalty free on September 15, but mortgage people won’t consider that amortized over just the period until Hubby reaches 59 ½, it has to be amortized over 30 years and that amounts to just about nothing. Asset based mortgages don’t want to do what would clearly be a short-term mortgage to cover just the time until we sell our Oregon house. The bottom line: no mortgage. All the sudden, Peabody has become more expensive when you consider penalties and taxes. OMG, what have we done? We have contracted to buy the PERFECT house, that’s what!

We took the money out of the IRA on September 21. As long as we have it back by about November 20, all will be well. We feel a bit like we’ve borrowed money from someone who will break our knees if we don’t pay it back. If our Oregon house closes in the next few days all will be well.

Perhaps it is now clear why the house selling saga has been so stressful. We brought it upon ourselves. All for the PERFECT house!

Hopefully, this is a story that will end well. We are currently on our cross-country journey with all our “stuff” from Oregon to Peabody. We are 1,500 miles out, with 775 miles to go. And we are going to Peabody – the PERFECT house.2781fc42f6efa5321e4b83500777b3f3l-m0xd-w1020_h770_q80

Update 24 hours later: the Oregon house did close today! All is well. We are now 209 miles away from Peabody. We will sleep there tomorrow night.

House Saga – Selling Part 2 (“Third time’s the charm” we hope)

As I said in Part 1, our go “live” goal was May 1. Realtor had explained the perfect formula: go “live” on Wednesday or Thursday to get the word out and have an open house on the weekend to get the biggest bang. Continuing repairs and parts on order and we weren’t ready for pictures until Friday, May 19. Realtor says we go ‘live” the next day anyway. I guess the perfect formula was out the window. We were all anxious to get this show on the road.

We were barely “live” by the start of the open house. That very afternoon we were struck by how little information flowed our way after the open house. How had it gone? That afternoon we got 3 requests for showing the next day. Problem was, the next day was our youngest son’s 18th birthday. It is a royal pain to prep a house to be shown when you are living in it, especially when you are living in it with a teenager and 2 dogs and 2 cats. I told the first realtor they could come the next morning. I told the next 2 realtors that they could come at the same time as the first rather than at their requested times – I did explain the birthday thing. We only had one showing the next day, the 2 realtors I put off declined to come. We were annoyed.  They probably were too.

The next weekend was Memorial Day weekend. We had NO requests for showings. By the end of the weekend, I was sure we would never sell our house. We were panicked.

The following weekend we went out of town, returning early Sunday, just in case. We ended up having several back-to-back showings that day. We were hopeful.

Late on the next day, Monday, we got an offer. We were elated! The first page of the offer was a delightful letter from the young family who hoped to buy our house and they eloquently described all the features of our home that they loved (as did we) and how their growing family of 2 toddlers and a baby on the way would grow and thrive in our home. It brought tears to my eyes. I wanted to sell to this family. Then we read the important details: they were offering 80% of our asking price. We were crest-fallen. Then sick. Then pissed.

We intended to ignore this offer. Realtor suggested we counter. We suggested that we would sleep on it. Next morning Realtor said to hold on – we might have another offer coming in. We were cautiously optimistic.

Early that evening, we received a second offer at better than 95% of asking price. We were ecstatic. The offer was contingent on buyer selling their house (which was not yet on the market), and Realtor convinced us that at our price point that would likely be the case with any buyer and that we could continue to market our house and if we got a better offer we could send our buyer packing. So we were under contract with a “bumpable” buyer. We were happy.

Then came inspections. I don’t want to go through the gory details. Suffice it so say inspections are, from the buyer’s perspective terrifying, and from the seller’s perspective over-done, nit-picky, and expensive. We got through it and still felt reasonably OK with our deal.

Then came the buyer’s deadline for selling their house, which they hadn’t. Then came buyer’s receipt of an offer, which they declined. Then we moved on; we started over. We were devastated. We had wasted 7 weeks of prime summer selling time.

Then came two weekends of open houses, a price drop, and another weekend of open houses. On the Saturday of the last weekend, we bought our dream house in Memphis (see House Saga – Buying yet to come). We decided to move to Memphis whether we sold our house or not.

The following Monday, we received an offer – full price, cash. We were elated. It was meant to be. Committing to the Memphis house was clearing manifesting our destiny and the universe responded with a cash offer. I have learned to talk that way from my yogi daughter who refers to herself as a hippie and a fairy, and in this case I believed it. We were flying high.

Then came the end of the inspection period, and our cash buyer walked. We were shell-shocked.

Next day Realtor said our first buyer was back, they had an offer they were willing to accept if we accepted a new price. We took it on the condition there would be no more inspection business. The inspection and repairs already done earlier in the summer would stand. They agreed. We were, in the words of my Hubby, “Ready for this circus to end.” Amen.

There were hurdles – our deal was contingent on their deal closing. Their deal had to get through the inspection business. Both houses had to pass appraisal. They had to accept the repairs we had done for them. Each of those hurdles was individually passed, with our corresponding angst and relief. Closing was to be on October 12. Buyer’s deal closed on October 12. We packed our U-Haul on October 10. We hung around our empty house and signed on October 11. Escrow is awaiting some final loan docs. They don’t come in. We turn off the water and drive away on October 12 in the afternoon. There is no point in sitting in an empty house any longer – this is out of our hands.

We are now 1000 miles away from “home” with about 1500 miles to go. Loan docs did not come in on Friday, the 13th, so now we wait until Monday, in limbo. Buyer has released their earnest money to us in an effort to show their confidence that all will be well. We declined to give them occupancy (“just to the garage”) until the deal is done. We are exhausted by this process, in a constant state of anxiety over it, and clearly older and greyer than when it began.

House Saga – Selling Part One (“Stuff”)

We decided shortly after January 20 to pursue the idea of transporting ourselves to Memphis. In addition to living in the same city as our now 1 and 2 year old granddaughters (as well as our eldest daughter and son-in-law), it was an economic decision. Hubby’s job of over 30 years had abruptly ended and retirement (the kind where no money is coming in) is at least 10 years off. Retirement (the kind where we kick back in our recliners) is NEVER happening.

Property values in Memphis are about half what they are around Portland, Oregon. Memphis is a tourist hot spot – or warm spot anyway. Our daughter and son-in-law had made some good money hosting AirBnB guests in their 3-bedroom townhouse about a mile from downtown. Their AirBnB venture was our introduction to it, and at first it freaked me out. They had guests in their extra 2 bedrooms, on the same floor as their own and they all shared the same bathroom – freaky. Then, over several visits I met some of those guests and found the experience to be absolutely delightful! Not all of their guests were perfect, but at least they had no horror stories.

Hubby and I devised a plan. We would sell our house on the Willamette River near Portland, Oregon

and use the proceeds to purchase AirBnB properties in Memphis. Managing those properties would be our new business. Hubby would not have to look for another J-O-B!

Hubby began doing all the “fix-it” projects around the house that we had put off, some for a long time. This occupied his time and moved us along toward our new goal. He drove around our area and got realtor names from other river properties that were for sale, and we interviewed two. It took us until early April to actually bite the bullet and sign with one. The fellow we signed with walked us through our house of nearly 30 years and explained how we needed to get the house ready for promotional pictures and for showing. Virtually everything on the walls, on the shelves, on the mantle, and on the counters needed to go.

As you might know, I’m a quilter. I ran a long arm quilting business that consumed one large room in our house. One entire wall of that room was a design wall. If you are a quilter, you might be drooling over that notion. The design wall had to go. I told the realtor that my long arm (12 feet long by 6 feet wide, floor to ceiling high) and my cutting table (4 feet by 8 feet) were both staying until the house was sold – this was business! In our office, my big Bernina embroidery machine occupied a large space. Realtor said it could stay, as he now understands how important sewing is to me.

The coffee pot can stay on the kitchen counters. A FEW books can stay on the bookshelves in the living room and in the office. There was a bookshelf in our master bedroom that I went to great pains to tidy up and largely clean off in anticipation of this walk-through. Realtor took one look at it and said, “That whole thing should go, there’s not much on it anyway.”

Anticipating a going “live” date of May 1, we began packing up. During a significant remodel in 2000, we gutted the living, dining, game room, kitchen of the house we had purchased 12 years earlier. In the process of spending about double what we originally paid for the house, we moved the kitchen to a different area, finished the ground floor and created a fabulous man cave, or as we lovingly referred to it, a teen lair. We created a gourmet kitchen and great-room, added 2 full baths and a laundry room, added an office, and created lots of huge built-in drawers. Those drawers served us well housing kids’ toys at first; we could quickly clean up before Dad came home from work. Toys are pretty much gone from our house, so what in the world is in all those full drawers anyway? We quickly discovered that a lot of storage is a curse; once something made its way into one of those drawers, it never came out. I found tax returns going back to the 1980’s. I wasn’t sure how long we needed to keep records, but I was pretty darn sure it wasn’t that long.

For every box we packed (to store in the garage until our actual moving day), we took about double that volume to goodwill or to the dumpster. We tried to be ruthless. During that first packing up process, we pretty much filled our garage with boxes – Realtor said that was fine.

Jumping ahead, we loaded the biggest U-Haul we could rent 2 days ago. Concerned that we wouldn’t be able to fit all our “stuff” into the truck, we were willing to leave most of those boxes in the garage – after all, we had lived without them just fine for nearly 6 months; we could probably live just fine without them forever.  In the end, every single one of those boxes is in the U-Haul.  I imagine I will be unpacking them and taking more to Goodwill in Memphis.  All of my sewing “stuff” made it, including my entire fabric stash organized in bins by color, and all of my unfinished projects.  I’m not completely sure that is a good thing.

I pray that my relationship with “stuff” is forever changed. I think that we will have much less storage space in our Memphis house, and that will be a blessing. I learned that I liked being in my quilting room much better with only the essentials left in the room. I could breathe; I could move. We discovered how much easier it was to clean the house without all the clutter. We joke that we have become minimalists. I hope it is true.